Opinion: Does 4K matter?

Connor Bynum // Film Critic

Have you ever walked into an entertainment store and noticed all the 4K fascination? There are 4K TVs, 4K Blu-ray players and 4K Blu-rays. During my time working at Best Buy, there was always one question that never seemed to go away: “Why should I buy this?.”

This question more often than not would be asked when I would bring up the subject of 4K. It’s a salesman’s job to know exactly how to answer such a question as it essentially boils down to whether or not I’d make the sale. And here’s the thing: nine times out of 10, I knew the answer would be that they should wait. My reason for this was never because I did not think 4K was the future of home video, but the reality was the technology was still in its infancy and there really wasn’t a lot of content to justify such an expensive upgrade. Cut to three years later and things have not really changed that much.

While the steady increase of new titles released onto 4K UHD Blu-Ray has shown that there is at least some potential in the lasting appeal of the new format, the battle for relevance is far from over. Here are a handful of reasons why people are still asking themselves: Does 4K matter?

1. It’s Complicated
Watching movies at home started out as such a simple concept. You needed a TV and a VCR. That was it. Nobody really cared about visual fidelity, and the fact that VHS tapes overcame Beta Max proved it. People just wanted to watch the movie. However, with each subsequent evolution in the home video market, things became increasingly complex.

To get the most out of the latest and greatest in the 4K home viewing experience you’ll need the following: A 4K TV, a 4K UHD Blu-Ray player, and a high quality audio system. This may not sound much more complicated than set ups for past technologies, but one trip to any Best Buy will clear things right up for you. The amount of options available is simply overwhelming.

Buying a 4K TV isn’t as simple as deciding how big you want the screen to be. Does it have HDR? How about Dolby Vision? If so, how does that model compare to a different brand that also has HDR or Dolby Vision? (I guarantee you that there will be a difference.) Is it an LED or OLED screen? What kind of refresh rate does it have? What does all of this mean and why should you care? Sadly, the same principles can be applied when deciding on what player and audio system to buy as well. This leads to our next point.

2. It’s Expensive and Exclusive
The average person doesn’t particularly like it when they and their money have to part ways, and upgrading a home entertainment system can end up costing thousands of dollars. What it all comes down to is whether or not they care about their investment enough to shell out the cash in the first place. Do you really care about visual perfection in your living room that much or would you be happy to just watch the entire series of PARKS AND RECREATION for the fourth time on Netflix?

The fact of the matter is that this has become a niche market. Like console gamers compared to the PC Master Race, some people just want to enjoy the content for what it is. And if you’ve ever had a conversation with a PC gamer, you’ve probably discovered a familiar problem.

3. It’s Always Changing
There’s nothing worse than forking over your hard earned money for the best piece of tech money can buy only to see a newer, nicer model hit store shelves six months later leaving you looking like a sucker. With technology stuck in a perpetual state of improvement, it can be terrifying when deciding on the right time to jump in. As a result, many people patiently wait on the sidelines and let the early adopters sort things out for everyone else. For example, the first few waves of 4K TVs were not made to support HDR. And even now, HDR is seemingly at risk of being replaced by Dolby Vision.

And that’s really where things are right now. Is 4K doomed to never be more than an expensive novelty? Probably not. Every new wave of technology has a rocky start in some way or another. Just try not to act too surprised when something else replaces it. Again.

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